When illustrator Oriana Fenwick was a child she became “obsessed with perfecting my skills by trying to put as much detail in the images as possible and was always trying to improve,” she tells It’s Nice That. This approach makes total sense when you look through Oriana’s portfolio of impossibly realistic illustrations, ones that resemble shaded photographs rather than pieces put together with pencil and paper.
Oriana initially grew up in Zimbabwe but moved to Germany when she was 14. A “super-shy only child,” the illustrator spent the majority of her time alone, “busying myself by scribbling on any available surface”. Her dedication to the medium from such a young age was only a hobby as she was convinced she wanted to study natural sciences. On a whim, Oriana applied to HfG Offenbach “just for fun” and once accepted, realised the importance of studying “something that I’d been continuously interested in”.
At HfG Offenbach — where we met Oriana as part of Eike König’s After School Club earlier this summer — students are often encouraged to try as many mediums in creativity as possible. But, still hooked on the medium of drawing, Oriana stuck to what she knew and naturally loved. “I never thought that I’d just stick to drawing (which has always been in pencil or colour pencil), but it was the only thing I seemed to want to do,” she says. “In Heiner Blum and Eike König’s classes, I finally learned to take my ability to accurately reflect my surroundings a bit further by focusing on what it was that interested me most, and eventually developed my own style.”
This style is one anyone can relate to, as Oriana illustrates mundane objects, “the shapes of things in everyday life”. “I enjoy bringing out the ‘weird and wonderful’ in diverse stuff surrounding me, such as creases in tissue paper, chewed gum or melting ice cream, and trying to make things appear more precious than they might actually seem at first glance.” To create these drawings, the illustrator begins with a structured process. She plays around with images in Photoshop, placing bits and bobs together to see how they could create a coherant whole. Once this is sorted she begins the final drawing, tending to prefer keeping elements simple by largely drawing in black, white and grey tones, believing that “the exclusion of colour brings another level of focus on the shapes involved in my work; that way they say enough without saying too much and leave more room for interpretation”.
This is certainly the case for Oriana’s personal projects, but her commissioned pieces take on a new entity by the introduction of colour, often asked to draw “portraits, the illustration of objects and ‘situations’,” she points out. “There is usually quite a big difference regarding content between my free works and commissions, but I am always on the lookout for interesting collaborations.” And further brilliant collaborations is definitely what we see for this illustrator on the horizon.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.